Southeastern Regional Association of the National Speleological Society

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Map Salon Rules

An informal meeting of cartographers was held at the 2013 SERA Winter Business meeting to discuss rule changes for next year. In the interest of better preparing cartographers for the NSS Cartography Salon held annually at the NSS Convention, it was decided that the SERA Map Salon would adopt the judging forms and points used by NSS Salon. These are available here.

Previous SERA Map Salon Rules (accepted 3/95)

The goal of the SERA Map Salon is to increase the production of cave maps in SERA and to offer mappers an incentive to improve mapping skills and techniques.

Maps must be of caves in the SERA region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee).

Entrants can be from anywhere and need not be NSS members.

Map categories will reflect the goals of the Salon. Categories will include:

  • Small caves categories to encourage the mapping of "pud holes" 
  • Categories for both inexperienced and experienced cartographers 
  • Other categories based on primary cave characteristic (size, horizontal, vertical) 
Maps need not be of the entire cave (ie. detail maps of cave sections are eligible).

Caves need not be completely surveyed for a map of the cave to be eligible.

Maps will be judged on cartography technique as opposed to significance of the cave presented.

Maps may be presented/submitted for display in a special class without judging.

Map for entry must not have won an award at the NSS salon nor an award at the SERA salon.

Maps remain the property of the entrant.

Each entrant must be given the scoring forms pertaining to their maps at the end of the salon.

Definition of Terms (these are the scoring categories)

Essential Elements (10 points each - total 90 pts)

These elements are essential for a map to be useful, accurate documentation.
Cave Name Name or indication clearly marked
Labeled or Obvious Entrance/Connection Can these be picked out immediately?
North Arrow Reference map to north (do not detract N vs. Nm)
Bar Scale Show scale graphically (text only, score 5 pts)
Vertical Representation Can vertical extent/nature be determined from map? (can include a datum)
Date(s) Dates or ranges of survey
Survey Methods Is method or accuracy shown?
Cart/Survey Group Are responsible parties identified?
Cave Statistics Horizontal & Vertical (traverse an extra)

Technique (5 points each - total 25 pts)

These elements improve the visual quality and increase the usefulness of the map.
Drafting Are lines clear and dark? Ink is not required.
Lettering Legible and clear (can be free form if writing is clear).
Detail Are MAJOR elements of the cave shown? How well does the map describe what is in the cave?
Legend / Symbols Does the map show what symbol set was used? Are special symbols defined?
Vertical Nature Is the vertical nature of the cave easy to understand?

Perks (3 points each - total 18 pts)

These items help make a map easier to use / understand.
Site Details Does the map reference the setting of the cave or other geographical/topological features?
Balance & Layout Artistic merit? How well does map fit on the page?
Visual Impact Is the map easy to read / impressive?
Complex Representation Is a complex thing shown clearly (maze/underlying passage).
Innovations Crayon and invisible ink are NOT innovations.
Date of Publication Year only (no extra for month or day).

When judging electronic maps, the same criteria apply, but need not be visible in all views of the cave nor do all criteria need to be visible at the same time.

Entry Categories

Stating all of these proposed categories now, people should have confidence to enter maps in these several categories without fear of competing with more significant or showier maps.

Small Horizontal Caves:

Horizontal caves or caves with few / small / infrequent pits with overall extents of:

  • Qualifier-100' 
  • 101'- 500' 

Pit maps with no or small amount of passage with overall vertical extents of:

  • Qualifier-70' 
  • 71'-bottomless pit with no endless borehole 

Any cave with significant horizontal and vertical development,having at least one pit.

Horizontal Caves

May have some pits, but overall nature of cave is horizontally traversable.

All of the above categories for cartographers with less than 2 yrs experience

All of the above categories for cartographers with any level of experience

Electronic maps or electronically drafted maps

There must be at least three entrants in a category for it to be used in any salon.

Each cave map can be entered in no more than 1 category.

If there is not enough entries to justify a category categories shall be combined until a category can be justified. When combining categories the following basic schema should be used:

  • Horizontal Q-100' and Vertical Q-70' join into "puds" 
  • Horizontal 101'-500' and Vertical 71-bottomless join into small caves 
  • "puds" and small caves join into moderate caves 
  • Multi-drops and Horizontal join into big caves 
  • moderate and big caves join into caves 
  • Cartographers exp 0-2yrs join Cartographers any experience into cartographers 
  • all above categories join 
  • Electronic maps join above categories 


There are 13 potential categories with a "best" in each category, plus a "best" of show. The best of show is to be determined by the highest numerical score, of all maps judged.

Merit awards

Cave maps scoring at least 118 of 133 points will receive a merit ribbon if they don't win a "best" of category ribbon. Additional merit ribbons may be awarded based on the decision of the judges.

Accepted by SERA Map Salon Committee 3/95

Carl Anderson, Brent Aulenbach, Fred Collicott, Dave Doolin, John Hoffelt, Don Hunter, Mike Rogers, Shirley Sotona, and Bruce Zerr

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